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Friday, 27 July 2012

Forget it, brother, and go it alone

Dean Baker was the guest on this week's Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, talking about his book, The End of Loser Liberalism (freely available online here), and how the government has ceased to function as a trusted third party - a necessity for healthy capitalism. (Question you should ask the next time someone gives you a load of libertoonian market-worship: Do you believe that the numbers at the gas pump should be true? If it says it's giving you a gallon, should it be an actual gallon? How do you prove it? Who should make that happen?) (And I can't tell you how gratifying it is to have Dean Baker around to emphasize the point I've been making since the beginning: that talking about "big government" vs. "small government" is a right-wing frame that liberals should question at every turn.) And, of course, patents as government-enforced monopolies, and the extraordinarily high price of medical products. And the things we could do to fix the present mess.

And if you missed Gaius Publius on Virtually Speaking last week, let me encourage you to listen to it first chance you get. Some articles referenced therein, for homework:
DeLong, "What Is to Be Done Now?: Jeff Sachs Appears to Miss the Point by a Substantial Margin..." and Krugman, "Magneto Muddles"
2006: Obama delivers his neoliberal manifesto to neoliberals. Note his complete lack of a Sister Souljah Moment - these are his people, not mere "Democrats" or "liberals" or civil rights activists or, you know, the punters. "Too many of us have been interested in defending programs as written in 1938."
Another thing I don't like to talk about much is the climate catastrophe. It's one of those big things I don't see us making any headway on until we get some democracy, and it may even be too late for that.
And, of course, Phil Agre's "What Is Conservatism and What Is Wrong with It?".

"The Verizon squeeze play: Verizon is consciously making DSL less attractive just as they've signed a new co-marketing arrangement with cable - driving unwanted DSL users into the arms of cable operators, with the understanding they can sell these users more expensive LTE connections later."
Charter schools - as Sam Seder observed on The Majority Report, if a scandal of these proportions was exposed at a public school, libertarians would be saying it proved we should get rid of public schools. But it's a charter school, so...crickets. (Also, Sam goes after Peter Orszag's stupid idea of privatizing the US Post Office, and talks about voter suppression. - and Thursday he talked to Matt Taibbi. )

Constable Savage: "Since 1990, 1433 people have died in police custody or after police 'contact' ...and not one police officer has been convicted of a criminal offense."

Michael Moore: "It's the Guns - But We All Know, It's Not Really the Guns."

Ramm Emmanuel, the classic example of why people hate "liberals".

Senator Al Franken's eulogy for Tom Davis, on the Senate floor.

Natalia Tena Interview. Well, I'm glad someone thought of that little technical problem in Game of Thrones....

RIP Mary Tamm, who played Tom Baker's Romana.

Joe Strummer's original lyrics for "London Calling"

Trailer for Searching for Sugar Man. Here's the story, and here's Sixto Rodriguez singing "Rich Folks Hoax" and "Sugar Man".

There is something special about a man who is such a dolt he can be made a laughingstock by Boris Johnson. I think the people who run the Republican Party really wanted to make sure that Obama gets his second term.

17:33 BST

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

I don't want it, I don't need it

CMike in comments to this post:

As a time out from the breathless excitement generated by the ongoing battle to force Mitt Romney to produce his pre-2010 tax returns, perhaps, our sophisticated, leading-light progressives might kill some time wondering what they're going to do if they either eventually do, or in the end do not, get them. It seems like they could be spending some of the meantime working on a "vision thing" message of their own.

Here's a link to another quote that like-wise laid out the neo-liberal vision rather clearly a while back and which I'm sure I heard long before 1991. In stripped down, and updated form, I remember it as having been along the lines of:

The problem with the economy always is that the destitute [and those working people who are a couple of missed pay checks away from ruin] have too much money and the rich not enough.

Maybe something along the lines of: In a democracy, when the few succeed in concentrating too much of the wealth of a nation into their own hands, that inevitably leads first to political failure and then to economic depression.

* * * * *

This week's panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Marcy Wheeler and Dave Johnson.

"Are Some Republicans Just So Horrible That You Have To Support Crappy Democratic Opponents? The DCCC has been pretty successful in getting 'independent' Beltway organizations to fight their battles for them. Perfect example: what progressive could possibly look at Patrick Murphy-- a wealthy, lifelong Republican who was contributing money to Mitt Romney's campaign not all that long ago but who switched party registration in order to win a seat in Congress-- and think, 'oh, yes, I want to support him and contribute my money to him?' Saturday one of the top Democratic Party officials in the state of Florida, a progressive, called me to talk about another congressional race. Afterwards I asked her what she thought about Murphy. 'Oh, he's awesome,' was her response. I asked her why. She suddenly realized who she was talking to and backtracked a little. 'Well,' she said, 'he can certainly raise a lot of money.' Yes, that's awesome! She admitted he was likely to vote with the Republicans an awful lot-- particularly against progressive approaches to economic issues."

Atrios points to a remarkable story in the Guardian in which a Tory Minister says that, since paying tradesmen with cash allows them to collect off the record (and therefore avoid taxes), it is morally wrong to pay your plumber with cash. Atrios points to the repugnant morality of such a focus, but think about that for a minute: He's saying it's immoral to pay your plumber with the Queen's coin. With actual money. Because, you know, you are morally required to let banks (the height of morality) handle your money and move it around (and charge fees for that). Of course, they want us to blame plumbers rather than the real miscreants who have offshored enough money to pay every debt in the OECD and then some. These are terrible, terrible people. (More here.)

More thing that Make Charles Pierce want to guzzle antifreeze - crap media and two thoroughly insane parties. Who could ask for more?

Graph of the day: "Median Wealth: American Unexceptionalism. Also: The 'Judeo-Christian' Tradition: The Anti-Abortion-Wailing Wall Edition"

Attic Amnesia: The Conveniently Forgotten Context of the Greek Catastrophe - It's as if someone is trying to finish the job that the Germans started in 1944.

Police arrested actors for spilling custard, say Olympic protesters: Former Games commissioner says 25 officers took performers away in handcuffs at demonstration against sponsorship. The former London 2012 "ethics tsar" Meredith Alexander has accused police of an "Olympic-sized overreaction", saying they broke up a theatre performance designed to highlight the problems of corporate sponsorship of the Games and arrested six people on suspicion of criminal damage for spilling custard. [...] Three of those arrested were actors in the performance, the other three were in the process of cleaning up the custard, which had been poured over the actors."

"Departing IMF Economist Blast's Fund" - Too bad the ones with the most conscience and competence - and the cleanest hands - are the ones who leave, and then speak up when it's too late.

Stuart Zechman has pointed out to me that the subject of changing the number of Representatives in the House was brought up two years ago by Brainwrap, but I haven't seen it raised again. I also found this: "By the end of 1789 there were 64 Representatives in the House. And the census of 1790 showed 3,929,326 people. This would have each representing 61,396 people on average." Meanwhile, "Things are even worse now than they were."

Ralph Nader says there are growing doubts about advertising. (I always thought the most important advertising in my local paper was the stuff that told me about sales at local stores and had some coupons you could cut out.)

I actually think this is probably correct, but I do not want to discuss the event.

I have always cherished Lenny Bruce's explanation of the development of law.

Your steampunk item of the day

I couldn't find an old Franken & Davis clip I liked, but here's an "interview" Al Franken did on Air America with a guest.

Whedonite corner: Charity kisses

Google celebrates Amelia Earhart.

And we all say farewell to Sally Ride.

When other people refer to Stuart Zechman as a rock star, they mean when he played guitar in Stabbing Westward. When I say it, I mean this.

16:50 BST

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Get some democracy in the House

Why isn't anyone saying this? Expand the House of Representatives.


The only constitutional rule relating to the size of the House says: "The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand."[6] Congress regularly increased the size of the House to account for population growth until it fixed the number of voting House members at 435 in 1911.[4] The number was temporarily increased to 437 in 1959 upon the admission of Alaska and Hawaii (seating one representative from each of those states without changing existing apportionment), and returned to 435 four years later, after the reapportionment consequent to the 1960 census."
Most of you probably know this, of course - we occasionally hear it alluded to - but how did such an anti-democratic move, making it possible for a single representative to have a constituency in the hundreds of thousands, pass? And why is there no continuing debate on this issue? Is it really just that no one can imagine fitting them all in the Capitol Building?

Think about this for a minute: If you are running for Congress and trying to get the votes of 30,000 people, you might have a decent chance at winning even without spending millions of dollars on heavy advertising - you and your personal staff might be able to door-step everyone in your district for a talk about your positions and what their needs and concerns really are. You might be able to cover your district in even less time by throwing relatively small block parties or house parties on every street where you personally talk to prospective voters. You could make fliers and leaflets on your laptop and print enough copies in your diningroom to send out to your whole constituency. (OK, maybe you'd take it to Kinko's... but you could.) And if you lowered that limit to 15,000, or 10,000, or 5,000 - well, you might even be able to doorstep every one of your constituents yourself.

In such a situation, members of Congress would be forced to be much more responsive to the voters, far more beholden to them, and dependent on them, for their votes. It wouldn't really matter how many spin doctors they paid off, because they would have no choice but to deal on a face-to-face level with voters.

Sure, they wouldn't all fit under the Capitol Dome at once, but the truth is, in this age when they've already been voting electronically for a couple of decades, why should they have to? It's hardly as if they don't have, say, the internet. And it's hardly as if they have real debates anymore, or don't waste enormous amounts of time on votes confirming the sense of the House that Mom and Apple Pie are a good thing, or whatever. And if they have to spend a whole day just taking the vote, well, good - maybe they'd think twice about the need to drag bad legislation to the floor just so they can pretend they are getting something done. And since the rest of us have to spend a great deal of our time doing boring, routine crap at our jobs, sometimes just to flatter the sense of self-importance of our boss (or because our entire job consists of doing boring, routine things without even the promise of a living wage or a decent pension at the end of it), I think our well-paid members of Congress could survive such tedium. Maybe it would remind them what it means to actually have to work for a living. And maybe having to talk to constituents a lot and having to endure long and tedious processes would help them understand what we mean when we say that most people can't keep working indefinitely past the age of 65, let alone 67 or 70.

In other words, if you just got rid of that 435-member limit and used 30,000 not as the low end of the size of a constituency but the high end, you just might not have to worry about campaign finance law or any of that other crap, but you'd put democracy back into the hands of the people - where it belongs.

And then you wouldn't be seeing things like this:

Lawmakers Back Strong Lawsuit Protection for Mortgage Lenders

The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should give the strongest possible legal protection to mortgage lenders who follow key underwriting rules, according to lawmakers preparing a letter to the agency.


Richard Cordray, director of the consumer bureau, said the agency wants to avoid the question "being punted into the courts." He said it was less important which standard regulators pick than that it be written clearly.

Who is supposed to be representing consumers? Our representatives in Congress. But instead:
DANGER! DANGER! Grand Bargain Looming Again

Washington's conservative consensus goes beyond the partisan divide. It's part of the fabric of Beltway politics and it may be a lot worse if Romney and a bunch of Republicans win in November and somewhat less worse if Obama and a bunch of Democrats win in November but... it's not a progressive consensus, it's a conservative consensus. And if Obama and Boehner are planning to foist it on America after the elections-- but before the new Congress takes its seats in November-- you've got to know who's being cut out of the bargain, no matter how grand it is: working families.

And how do you like this headline:
Dems: Fix banks' home loan rules

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau was a liberal darling when it was created as a post-financial collapse industry watchdog, but now, it is feeling heat from nervous Democrats who are siding with banks to pressure the agency as it makes its first major foray into housing reform.

The agency is tasked by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act with reshaping the home loan industry to prevent another flood of the sure-to-fail home loans that set off the financial crisis. But doing so means rewriting the rules for community banks as well as their larger competitors, and that has Congress nervous.

A group of House Democrats has joined Republicans in a push led by the lending industry to get the agency to provide banks with maximum legal protection against borrower lawsuits as it drafts new standards for home loans.

Yes, that's right, the New Dems, formerly known as the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) and Third Way, want to formalize the position that if banks break the law, no one should be able to bring them to court. This is what Obama meant when he announced, "I am a New Democrat." Old Democrats believed in democracy.

Seriously, if you fixed the limit on members of Congress, you wouldn't need to waste time with crap like Citizens United and McCain-Feingold, neither of which should be our top issues. Fix representation. Let's have one great big campaign to do that, and maybe we'll start getting somewhere.

* * * * *

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report joined Sam Seder to discuss his belief that far from being the lesser of two evils, Obama is the more effective evil, on Thursday's episode of The Majority Report. (Elsewhere, Glen Ford wonders how Angela Davis Lost Her Mind Over Obama.)

"Verizon and AT&T's Internet Mugging Threatens U.S. Prosperity [...] In a legal brief regarding Federal Communications Commission regulations, Verizon Communications claimed the right to edit and restrict the Internet content it delivers through its broadband services. Verizon says it is like a newspaper in that it creates, aggregates, and curates content. It claims a free speech right to filter the content, restrict it, or block it altogether. Verizon rejects entirely the obligation to carry all websites on an equal basis. It says there is no more justification to require Verizon to carry all web traffic equally than to require the New York Times to cover all stories equally. The company claims to offer an 'information service' rather than a 'communications service.'"

Aren't you glad that our wonderful pharmaceutical companies are able to develop and sell us drugs like this without the FDA stopping them?

Greedy bastards: "The share of the nation's wealth held by the less affluent half of American households dropped precipitously after the financial crisis, to 1.1 percent, according to new calculations by Congress's nonpartisan research service."

We All Make The Games. Most of us wish we didn't have to.

Am I the only one who is bugged by the idea that instead of having an adversarial relationship with politicians, journalists marry them?

RIP: Tom Davis of Franken & Davis.

600-Year-Old Medieval Bras (Thanks, Katiebird!)

PopSpots: The exact Spots where famous events of Pop culture took place

Photographs of (sometimes surprising) meetings

Echo is telling me: "This commenting widget will be discontinued on October 1st, 2012." OK, what do I do now?

02:57 BST

Thursday, 19 July 2012

But they got too much already, and beside, we've got the cops

Eventually, some time after the Poll Tax riots (or "Poll Tax Police Riots", as I was already thinking of them), I saw a documentary on my television called The Battle of Trafalgar, that confirmed everything I had seen on the day - the police actively trying to cause riots before demonstrators had done anything to provoke the crowd-dispersal tactics that were used against a lawful and peaceful demonstration. Having spent hours terrorizing the crowd (who had been barricaded in so that they couldn't disperse), the police then released them into commercial streets where, yes, a few incidents of "violence" (against property, not people), took place. By that time, the broadcast media was already portraying the events in reverse order, as if the burnt car had preceded the police action. That's what I saw, and that, it turned out, was what the documentary's makers were able to demonstrate.

That documentary was broadcast with little controversy, however, and afterwards I heard no discussion of it, let alone calls for an investigation. But now:

Secret UK censorship court orders BBC not to air documentary

A UK judge has ordered the BBC not to broadcast a documentary about England's August 2011 riots, reports The Guardian. The judge also banned the BBC and media from disclosing the court in which the censorship order was made; the judge's name; or the details or nature of the order.

The documentary features actors reading from interviews with rioters, but it's not clear exactly what was deemed worthy of censorship. The BBC "strongly objects" to the ruling and plans to appeal.

This is an outrage, and it seems to me it should present an opportunity to make a lot of noise and question what could possibly have been in the documentary that "required" censorship - with demands that the documentary be shown so that the rest of us can judge. That could generate a much wider reception for The Riots: In their own Words than The Battle of Trafalgar received.

WTF? Oh, if only I was any good at creating graphics, this is such an invitation to parody. With little swastikas....

Zombie Sweatshop: "How Banks and Politicians Let One Company Come Back from the Dead to Keep Abusing Workers. One sweatshop steel company endangered workers, stiffed creditors, got government contracts--and when caught, simply wiped its slate clean with bankruptcy."

Suburban Guerrilla on "Single Mothers: The Times bias is that good parenthood is something you buy, and has nothing to do with the quality of interaction with your children."

It certainly isn't good policy that's keeping people from wanting to invest in a lawless system: "'The bigger problem, which I think investors are focusing on, is confidence in the financial system is eroding,' he said. 'There have been a litany of failures and confidence-reducing events recently which should cause anyone with a stock certificate and a heartbeat to think hard about what to do with their stocks,' he said."
Oh, and: "I imagine I'll write a version of this post a million times, but the people in charge are failures. If, in January 2009, I['d] given a rough outline of what would happen in policy, the economy, and the financial system over the next 3.5 years, people would have thought I was crazy. No one would have believed that the people in charge would tolerate such sustained high unemployment. And yet they have. It is indeed a choice. They can make things better but they have chosen not to."

It's really simple: Jeffrey Sachs is a neoliberal who wants to get rid of the New Deal, and they are wrong. I expect that's what Jay Ackroyd will be talking to Gaius Publius about this week on Virtually Speaking, along with Gaius' recent article on Rent-seeking.

Atrios is hoping the Democrats will actually end up letting the Bush tax cuts expire as threatened. But I think about that and think, "They are threatening to let the Bush tax-shift expire if they don't get to have their Grand Bargain of killing the New Deal." I mean. Seriously.

Reading this article about Caitlin Moran kept reminding me of the days when Life magazine called Germaine Greer "The Saucy Feminist That Even Men Like."

Joss Whedon says America is turning into tsarist Russia. (video here - political rap starts around the 54-minute mark). (Also: The Firefly reunion panel.)

Starry Night in bacon

Fascinating Aida, "Cheap Flights" (live)

Phil Ochs, "Outside A Small Circle of Friends"

16:10 BST

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Blinded science

This is why people have come to distrust science. Well, I don't mean science, I mean "science". But, like "centrist" and centrist, and "moderate" and moderate, the words may look and sound the same and be used as if they were the same, and yet, mean entirely different things.

Some people at the London School of Economics decide they want to prove that offshoring is not evil, so they imagine a model in which this is possible, then imagine that within this model it *may* be the case that offshoring is actually creating jobs for Americans rather than simply removing them, and then declare this case of pure wishful thinking to be a scientific "study".

Of course, it in no way resembles an actual scientific study, which would take real data from the real American economy and examine the context that is, rather than the model they wish to assume - and show them that offshoring has caused the complete disappearance of whole towns, the rapid decay of a major city, and an enormous increase in unemployment and poverty throughout the United States.

These models don't work to do anything other than further propaganda that attempts to tell us that what is right in front of our eyes is not really happening. It is not science, it is spin.

I can do that, too. I can create a Lego model of a town in which no one is oppressed, and no one goes hungry, and no one ever has to sleep out in the rain. Of course, that would be because Lego people never get hungry under any circumstances and they don't sleep in the rain because the whole town is on a small platform under my kitchen table.

My "model" will also never have its citizens rising up against the town leaders and storming the city hall with pitchforks and torches and putting their legislators' and aristocrats' heads on pikes.

But in real life, if idiots at LSE keep trying to tell us things that are manifestly not true and calling it "a study", well, we shall see....

* * * * *

Record begins: 4:10pm

[David House is sworn in and informed of his rights]

Patrick Murphy: Would you please state your full name for the record?

David House: My name is David House

PM: Did you meet Bradley Manning in January 2010?

DH: On the advice of counsel, I invoke my right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I am concerned that this grand jury is seeking information designed to infringe or chill my associational privacy, and that of others, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, and that it is using information obtained without a search warrant in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. I define the preceding statement as "invoke", and when I say "I invoke" in the future I am referring to this statement.

* * * * *

LIBOR: The graphic - nicely done, pass it on. "Let's start with you."

"Guess Who's Back? SOPA And ACTA Are Sneaking Into Law Behind Your Back."

In comments to this post, CMike says: "The question I'd most like to ask Theodore Roosevelt (or William Jennings Bryan): 'Now what?'" (Teddy Roosevelt is conveniently quoted here.) Jcapan says below CMike that Howard Zinn had the answer, looking to the other Roosevelt.

"Going private? What happened when a private health company offered an NHS campaigner a job: What the heck is this? I've been trying and failing to stop the government from privatising the National Health Service for years, and now a private healthcare company has contacted me about a job!"

I like a good argument. I'll even argue with trolls sometimes if they aren't too incomprehensible. And my experience tells me that sometimes, honest to gods, you can change people's minds. So I've never treated all trolls equally. I was interested in the links about trollery on the Making Light sidebar which are also collected at the beginning of Jim MacDonald's "Dig Two Graves", but I'm also fascinated that any author would announce his intention to get revenge on a reviewer's (fairly painless) comments by retaliating with nasty reviews of the reviewer's other works. The sexual harassment component is just a bonus. (Aside: Having a name that isn't obviously feminine is still great protection from random trolls, but once people know you are female, many odd things do happen.)
Abi Sutherland is a smart post-boomer who is not a policy wonk and clearly hasn't been in the weeds of the discussion of Social Security Insurance and its future, but now that she's had her information updated, she's written about it in a way that even your relatives can understand. I suppose it's too much to hope that your Congressional representatives could also understand it.
Also: Why Marvel movies are better than DC movies.

The long-buried Victorian Sex Survey

Where the Beatles probably got that idea

A love letter from Richard Feynman.

A farmer's tribute

Storm Giants: Camille Seaman's amazing photos of storm clouds in the Midwest

17:00 BST

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Kill 'em with markets

The other day Stuart Zechman mentioned Austin Frakt to me. I was unfamiliar with Dr. Frakt, but he appears to be some sort of respected policy wonk on healthcare. So I went looking for examples of his work and found this interview with him on five books about health care policy. Frakt says a number of things I can't disagree with and demonstrates that he understands a lot about the nature of the problem, but he also says a lot of frustrating things of the sort policy wonks say that make me want to smack them. I liked Sophie Roell's opening question, though:

Leaving aside the insurance issue, why is the absolute price of American healthcare so high? The price of going to the doctor in the US, or buying drugs, can on occasion be 10 times what it is in Europe. It's particularly surprising when in every other area - from clothing to electronic goods to gas - American consumers are incredibly cost conscious and prices are almost invariably lower than elsewhere.
I liked it because it gives you some important information, right off the bat, about something most Americans really need to know. Frakt's answer says a lot of things that are true, but elides what the power of the medical profession has bought it, including the ability to price-gouge with the connivance of government. Which means he also doesn't say that the countries where health care costs are so much lower (e.g., the rest of the OECD), are countries where government restrains such behavior. Later in the interview, Frakt appears to be saying that real market competition would keep prices down - as if the market for medical care were the same as any other market, and as if it just naturally works that way everywhere else. But he does acknowledge the draw-backs of employer-based health insurance, such as:
Do healthcare economists think it's a good thing?

No. It's widely recognised that a more rational system would sever the connection between health insurance and employment. To the extent that the debate is over policy, it's about how to get there and under what terms. To the extent that the debate is over politics, it's just too easy to use the spectre of change to frighten people.

Why is it so inefficient? It creates too many distortions in the labour market. A lot of people will take and hold onto jobs for the health insurance, not because the job makes sense in terms of the work or even in terms of wages. There are many people who don't retire because of health insurance. There are even studies that show that there is lower creation of small businesses and less entrepreneurship because of health insurance. It's an unnecessary constraint on the labour market and on job creation, and it just doesn't need to be that way.

And, of course, the moment when I wanted to smack Frackt the hardest is where he exposes his absolute faith that the PPACA was absolutely and unequivocally the very best bill that it was politically possible to produce. Sorry, no. Obama and other neoliberals decided a very long time ago that this was the best they were willing to deliver, and all of their efforts were aimed at making this the bill, and not a better one. They could have done many things differently and created a different political climate, but they didn't want to.

* * * * *

Internet Access Providers. Don't call them service providers, because that hides what they really do, which is simply provide access to the internet (which, we should always remember, exists because your taxes paid for its development at every level). Sort of the way building a side road provides access to the main highway, say. The people that built the side road still don't get to charge you every month for driving on it to get to the highway your taxes paid for, and they don't get to introduce bottlenecks to slow you down until you pay them extra fees (bribery) to use a faster lane in the side road to get to your highway. Internet Access Providers want you to think of the internet as something they built themselves and they should be able to control and use however they want. And they want to be able to steal and sell your private data, too. And decide what content you can see or create. That is, they want to take away all of your vital internet freedoms and your privacy as well. For the most part, they've already won the latter battle, but under the jointly-held definition of "freedom" coming from both Rand and Ron Paul, it seems it's Internet Access Providers, and not all of the people of the United States, who are entitled to "liberty", so the hell with your free speech and right to be secure in your persons and your papers. Techdirt's Mike Masnick talked to Sam Seder on The Majority Report on Tuesday's show about this push to curtail your online freedoms.
On Monday's show, Sam talked to Christopher Paulos, plaintiff's attorney in the suit against GlaxoSmithKline after revelations that they made billions of bucks on a product with fudged research data. (Eliot Spitzer, who went after Glaxo a decade ago, gave a brief Q&A to Alternet about the settlement of the case and the pointlessness of these large settlement awards. Spitzer points out that the money they pay will be less than the money they made off of the fraud, and says nothing will change until people lose their jobs. But to me that's just a start - these people are criminals - shouldn't damages be sufficiently punitive that there is no incentive to perpetrate such frauds in the first place? And shouldn't people who knowingly commit these crimes go to jail?)

It fascinates me that people tell me with a straight face that we need to vote for Obama because Romney might start another war. I'm not even sure what this is, but I'm pretty sure there won't be much outcry from "progressives" if Obama wants to keep expanding the wars that can no longer just be blamed on Bush. (Also: Voucher programs are just another scam.)

More from Atrios:
"Why Would They Do Anything Differently? The people who caused the crisis are all still in charge. And they've learned that any time they're losing money the free money bazooka will be aimed at them. Moral hazard is just for people whose $10 extra in food stamps might lead them to continue living the life of luxurious funemployment. They're going to keep playing the game as they've been playing it. It's working for them. And, yes, the monsters in our media wrote a trend story on funemployment. Such things do not make me shed tears when I hear about job losses in journalism."
"An Evil Man I do wish more people who are maybe a bit more respectable than I am would start using moral language to describe the reprehensible actions of Bernanke and pals. There's no possible analysis of the welfare tradeoffs of these policies which leads to any other conclusion than 'mass unemployment is a small price to pay for keeping the rich fat and happy, or even fatter and happier.' Time to end our failed experiment in 'independent' central banking."

It's a shame "Obama's Accomplishments" is written by someone from the Cato Institute, since he isn't capable of seeing where the real problem lies, because the actual list of headline accomplishments is all too true. Pity it descends into nonsense like, "The economy may not get much better this year, not with all the taxes, spending and regulation weighing it down. President Obama may be hoping to achieve the distinction of being the president reelected with the highest unemployment rate." That's so, so wrong. High taxes at the top, lots of spending on the ground, and a restoration of all those regulations that were put in place to prevent another depression are exactly what we need, boyo, and you people just can't admit it.

APOD: A Morning Line of Stars and Planets

17:13 BST

Monday, 09 July 2012

All the world's wars at once

Panelists on Virtually Speaking Sundays were Avedon Carol and Cliff Schecter, who pondered the self-destructive policies of the Democratic leadership despite the fact that polls show that: "The public's desire for fundamental change does not mean it supports reductions in the benefits provided by Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid. Relatively few are willing to see benefit cuts as part of the solution, regardless of whether the problem being addressed is the federal budget deficit, state budget shortfalls or the financial viability of the entitlement programs." And check this out: "The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted June 15-19 among 1,502 adults, finds that Republicans face far more serious internal divisions over entitlement reforms than do Democrats. Lower income Republicans are consistently more likely to oppose reductions in benefits - from Medicare, Social Security or Medicaid - than are more affluent Republicans." That is to say, all those crazy Republican voters are more liberal than Democrats! [Also: Homework link for DW-NOMINATE referenced during the show.]

Daniel Marans of Social Security Works was a guest on Virtually Speaking with Jay Ackroyd, where they discussed the escalation in attempts to foment Age War in order to destroy Social Security in The Grand Bargain. In a week when Zeke Emanuel tried to make you forget that large numbers of elderly Americans already live on catfood and David Frum tried to convince you that old people aren't great drivers and therefore shouldn't get Medicare, it's refreshing to see people (like RJ Eskow) pushing back against the pack of lies created to convince you that you have to kill granny because she's trying to eat you.

Margaret Flowers talks to Laura Flanders about how we still need single-payer.

David Dayen, "States Opting Out of Medicaid Expansion Could Reduce Their Rolls Without Consequences."

"Insider Report on Big Pharma's Corrupt Marketing and Phony Science" - and, via Yves, a cuddly porcupine.

Some people just haven't thought through what it would mean if abortion is illegal.

Bill Moyers says if you're just catching up with the Barclays LIBOR scandal, this should help. Meanwhile, Sam Seder spoke to Matt Taibbi on The Majority Report.

401Ks are a scam.

Just don't even think of moving into a house in a new development if this ruling isn't overturned.

A lot of people don't know and don't care because it doesn't seem to matter.

A picture of June's jobs - note where the dark red is.

Paul Crag Roberts' 4th of July message: "Can Americans Escape the Deception? [...] In short, in 'freedom and democracy' america, the people have no voice and no rights and no representatives."

Kaiser's Health Reform Quiz. (What, they reformed health?)

America's First "Sexpert" - The Woman Who Stood Up To Anthony Comstock (May not be work-safe.)

Prison escape tools

Jim Marshall's Intimate Images of Legendary Musicians

100 Riffs - A Brief History of Rock N' Roll

When he was 12, Jeremiah McDonald made a videotape of himself having a "conversation" with his older self. Now 32, he picks up the other end of that conversation. Watch it, it's kinda neat.

You can Watch Inside Job here.

Mel Brooks explains your political leadership.

Johnny Cash and Uncle Shelby sing "A Boy Named Sue".

17:18:00 BST

Thursday, 05 July 2012

In the back of my mind I know it can't be real

Around here, fireworks season doesn't really start until the autumn (and seems to continue straight through New Year's Eve, as far as I can tell), so I had to settle for setting off my fireworks show in Second Life while listening to PDQ Bach. Meanwhile...

By way of apology from Jay Ackroyd, the 12-seconds of me being the one who called the Supreme Court decision. I'm still baffled that no one else seemed to expect it. And the whole rest of the progblogosphere seems to have the story wrong (via). Well, with notable exception. But it seems clear to me that affirming HeritageCare was the way to go for Roberts, who doesn't actually give a damn about the Constitution. I suspect the other four far-right justices of letting their partisanship get the better of them.

Neil Rest in comments to this post: "There's a strong consensus that Roberts flipped sides at the very last second. [1] [2]. I still don't trust the son of a bitch any further than I can throw the Capitol. What's in there to bite us in the ass later? The first suggestion that there's a poison pill in there comes from George Lakoff. Doesn't mean I'm right, but at least it puts me in damn good company." And I see via Atrios that John Cole at Balloon Juice is also in that general consensus, (And Republican-run states will have no hesitation about rejecting the Medicaid expansion, knowing that tightening the screws on their constituents can be claimed to be the fault of Obamacare rather than themselves. Yes, the law still sucks, but the more miserable arch-conservatives can make the populace, the more successful they are at convincing them that it can be blamed on "liberals".)

All sorts of articles are being written on what the Supremes' decision means to the millions of Americans who can't afford commercial health insurance and aren't eligible for the other kind - like Kate Pickert's "How the Supreme Court's Medicaid Ruling Endangers Universal Coverage" at Swampland. But Stuart Zechman's comment below it is perhaps more illuminating than the article itself:

You write:

"Policymakers wrote the ACA with the assumption that the Medicaid expansion would be adopted everywhere, so there are no other provisions in the law to help non-Medicaid eligible people earning less than 133% of the federal poverty level get insurance.

"Federal subsidies to help people afford insurance purchased independently will be created by the law, but are only available to those earning between 133% and 400% of the federal poverty level."

What do you mean?

Do you mean to say that the mandated "Bronze level" coverage in the state-based "Exchanges" is still somehow un-affordable for a family of four making a cent less than 30,657 dollars a year (133% poverty), even with the "subsidies to help people afford insurance"?

Or do you mean that, perversely, the law makes those federal subsidies only available to people who earn one cent over 30,657 dollars a year?

You do realize how odd it is that Medicaid expansion is necessary at all, given how "affordable" the subsidies are supposed to make the "Bronze level" policies sold in these state-based "Exchanges," don't you, Kate Pickert?

Given all of the federally-subsidized shopping for best-price coverage that PPACA enthusiasts claim will drive premiums down in these "Exchanges," can you clearly explain exactly why is it that unimplemented Medicaid expansion would leave any family of four making 30,657 dollars a yea priced out of these "markets" and uninsured? Or are poor people basically forbidden by the law from participating in the Exchanges at all?


* * * * *

What the Founders said - and long before Marx, too.

More history: It's hard to believe, but the champion who spoke presciently against repeal of Glass-Steagall on the Senate floor was Byron Dorgan. Boy, was he right. And he's right now, too.

"Poor Land in Jail as Companies Add Huge Fees for Probation: CHILDERSBURG, Ala. - Three years ago, Gina Ray, who is now 31 and unemployed, was fined $179 for speeding. She failed to show up at court (she says the ticket bore the wrong date), so her license was revoked. When she was next pulled over, she was, of course, driving without a license. By then her fees added up to more than $1,500. Unable to pay, she was handed over to a private probation company and jailed - charged an additional fee for each day behind bars. For that driving offense, Ms. Ray has been locked up three times for a total of 40 days and owes $3,170, much of it to the probation company. Her story, in hardscrabble, rural Alabama, where Krispy Kreme promises that 'two can dine for $5.99,' is not about innocence. It is, rather, about the mushrooming of fines and fees levied by money-starved towns across the country and the for-profit businesses that administer the system. The result is that growing numbers of poor people, like Ms. Ray, are ending up jailed and in debt for minor infractions. 'With so many towns economically strapped, there is growing pressure on the courts to bring in money rather than mete out justice,' said Lisa W. Borden, a partner in Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, a large law firm in Birmingham, Ala., who has spent a great deal of time on the issue. 'The companies they hire are aggressive. Those arrested are not told about the right to counsel or asked whether they are indigent or offered an alternative to fines and jail. There are real constitutional issues at stake.'" Towns and states could, of course, save lots of money by de-privatizing and having their own employees do everything from handle probation to running the jails, but that doesn't play well with "the new rules".

"How a Lone Grad Student Scooped the Government and What It Means for Your Online Privacy: A gifted computer scientist, Mayer suspected that online advertisers might be getting around browser settings that are designed to block tracking devices known as cookies. If his instinct was right, advertisers were following people as they moved from one website to another even though their browsers were configured to prevent this sort of digital shadowing. Working long hours at his office, Mayer ran a series of clever tests in which he purchased ads that acted as sniffers for the sort of unauthorized cookies he was looking for. He hit the jackpot, unearthing one of the biggest privacy scandals of the past year: Google was secretly planting cookies on a vast number of iPhone browsers. Mayer thinks millions of iPhones were targeted by Google."

"How the new 'Protecting Children' bill puts you at risk: "Last Thursday the U.S. House of Representatives' judiciary committee passed a bill that makes the online activity of every American available to police and attorneys upon request under the guise of protecting children from pornography. The Republican-majority sponsored bill is called the Protecting Children From Internet Pornographers Act of 2011. It has nothing to do with pornography, and was opposed by over 30 civil liberties and consumer advocacy organizations, as well as one brave indie ISP that is urging its customers to do everything they can to protest the invasion of privacy. "Protecting Children" forces ISPs to retain customer names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and dynamic IP addresses."

McClatchy: "Fewer workers cross border, creating U.S. farm labor shortage"

We aren't going to get anywhere with people like this, who'd rather elect or re-elect Republicans than allow a progressive challenge, running the DCCC. Take a page from the Tea Party and kick out bad Dems.

"UK.gov proposes massive copyright land snatch [...] New legislation is proposed that would effectively introduce a compulsory purchase order, but without compensation, across an unlimited range of creative works, for commercial use."

Atlantis found in North Sea. No, really.

The age of illusion: An interview with Chris Hayes

Considering everything Sneakers had going for it and the fact that it appears to have done well at the box office when it opened, it's always startled me that so few people I run into seem to know it. I mean, the biggest stars of two generations playing action geeks (Redford, Poitier, Ackroyd, Phoenix - and James Earl Jones!), Ben Kingsley working for the Mafia, and a scene at the beginning in which a thinly-disguised Whit Diffie is murdered, all served up with an appetizer of Mike Bloomfield's great guitar work ["Really", unadulterated] - even I couldn't ask for more. But check out this little scene. Maybe Karl Rove did see the movie...

I hesitate to congratulate our friend jurassicpork on four years of penurious blogging at his present site, since I think things might be better for him if he had a good job that didn't leave him time for it. But jobs are thin on the ground under "the new rules".

Opie's tribute to Sheriff Taylor: "Ron Howard: What I learned from Andy Griffith"

Pretty photo

"I Can't Quit Her"

15:50 BST

Avedon Carol at The Sideshow, July 2012

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